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Feature address by Dr. the Honourable Lincoln Douglas, Minister of the Arts and Multiculturalism

On the occasion of the Prize giving Ceremony for winners of the:

National Songs Competition
50th Anniversary Independence Chutney Soca Monarch Competition
The Lord Brynner Independence Calypso Monarch Competition

Queen’s Hall, St. Ann’s, Port of Spain
Thursday October 11, 2012
6.00PM

 

  • Ms. Desdra Bascombe, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of the Arts & Multiculturalism
  • Mr. Vel Lewis, Deputy Permanent Secretary
  • Mrs. Ingrid Ryan Ruben, Director of Culture
  • Mr. Lutalo Masimba, President,TUCO
  • Mr. George Singh, Chief Executive Officer, Southex Promotions
  • Esteemed Awardees
  • Members of the Media
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Good evening and welcome to Queen’s Hall. I have the distinct pleasure this evening of bringing you greetings and best wishes on this very special occasion. I would like to keep the momentum going as I address you at this time… And what a time it is!

Since taking up the mantle of leadership at the Ministry last June, I have had the opportunity to not only observe rather keenly, but get involved in a number of commendable initiatives and events which the Ministry has been spearheading.

I must say that this prize presentation ceremony marks the culmination of months of preparation, hard work and focussed energy in order to ensure success in every regard.

And so, we are pleased to celebrate “winners” of every category and in every sphere of the activities leading up to this moment. Congratulations to everybody!

Ladies and gentlemen, in this signal year 2012, we saw a “coming of age” of our beloved Trinidad and Tobago. Independence celebrations continue even as we reflect on our numerous accomplishments, the strides we have made and the lessons we have learned along the way.

Fifty years ago we bid farewell to the Union Jack and all that it symbolized. We launched out on our own, shaping and moulding a new and vibrant identity for ourselves. Today, we stand together as a nation, boldly taking responsibility for our own future growth and development.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism and by extension, the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago pledges to remain fully in support of the arts and culture in Trinidad and Tobago.

As you know, debate on the budget is currently in full flight. It is that time of the year when Government presents its fiscal package for the coming year after reviewing how we have fared in the previous one.

From where I sit, ladies and gentlemen, the future looks very promising, as we work towards diversifying our economy by expanding and developing the infrastructure that will foster thriving creative and cultural industries.

An estimated sum of sixty nine million dollars will be invested in the creative and cultural economy over the period 2013 to 2015.

Music and entertainment, the arts, fashion and film all represent critical public policy initiatives designed to trigger job-creation and national wealth. This investment, therefore, augurs well for our artists and artisans – and many of you are present this evening – as we continue to create sustainable livelihoods within the arts and culture.

I am aware that there are those among us who might be less optimistic about these facts, because many persons are always of the view that no amount is ever enough!

However, I say to you today that the budgetary allocations to the Ministry are MORE than sufficient for us to meet our fiscal commitments. We have no time for “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. We are upbeat and we are working!

Recently I learned that the Chinese word for “crisis” is made up of two symbols: – one means “disaster” and the other: “opportunity”.

As stakeholders in the arts, I firmly believe that we have innumerable opportunities which we can explore in terms of using our creativity, our innovativeness AND the technology that is available to us to comprehensively meet our goals and objectives.

Little by little, the principals and key players within cultural organizations of every kind must divest themselves of the need to always seek state subventions for projects and initiatives. Ironically, in a number of cases, the initiatives hosted by these organizations very often generate substantial revenue from commercial activity. Where, then, are the strategies for re-investment for future growth?

Yet another question is: how can you, as individuals and as organizations, leverage your innovativeness in a manner that works in your best interest and in the interest of the public whom you serve?

Therein lies the challenge that I put to you this evening.

As Minister with responsibility for the oversight and management of the arts and culture, rest assured that the Ministry and the Government will keep up its end of the bargain.

We are committed to implementing key policies and plans, in addition to facilitating the direct and indirect infrastructural arrangements that underpin a diversified economy.

On that note I digress briefly to indicate that later this month, on October 29 and 31, the Ministry proposes to host its final round of consultations with the national community, with a view to implementing three national policies. These are with respect to: Multiculturalism, Culture – in the form of a National Cultural Policy and a third, regarding Grants and Subventions.

We are looking forward to engaging you all as stakeholders in our conversations as we chart the way forward in these key areas. I advise you to be on the lookout for more information about these consultations and make every effort to lend your perspectives and your voice.

In facilitating a new economy, the Ministry has developed various products to attract contributions from business and corporations.

One such example is the National Registry of Artists and Cultural Workers - designed to provide access and resources to artists and artisans from a range of skills and backgrounds.
Currently, an incentive of one hundred and fifty percent tax relief is given to corporations that support registered artistes. Additionally, a measure effected this year, saw an increased cultural allowance of one hundred percent, to two million TT dollars.

As we get ready to ride the wave of twenty-thirteen (2013) in service to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, we propose to: -

  • Target the youth and children, particularly those in foster care, in our steelpan initiatives such as pan camps, music schools in the pan yard and Artists-in-Residence
  • Establish “festival villages” throughout the length and breadth of our country, to encourage the localization of traditional festivals, leading to income-generating community tourism.
  • Conduct valuable training programmes among industry personnel in the arts, from administrators to tutors, curators and other technical personnel. Continuous professional development remains important as we build capacity within our communities and create viable options within the creative industry.

 

There is much more in train. But suffice it to say, all of these programmes and projects are designed to provide new opportunities within a transformed economy, for the people of our beloved country. I urge you therefore, to get informed and get on board!

Ladies and gentlemen, as I mentioned earlier, I would like to keep the momentum of this evening’s programme going.

Our fiftieth anniversary arts showcase was a tremendous success, I must say. And again I would like to extend best wishes to all winners in the three competitions that took place. We now have several well-crafted compositions from various genres of music, which we can add to our repository of patriotic and nation-building songs.

From calypso to chutney soca, contemporary Caribbean jazz and local groove music, the message that we are Trinbagonian and proud, resonates deeply within us all.
Before I close, ladies and gentlemen, it would be remiss of me to ignore the contributions of a few persons, most notably: -

  • Mr. George Singh and Southex Promotions for collaborating with the Ministry on hosting the chutney soca monarch competition where I heard some excellent compositions.
  • Mr. Lutalo Masimba and the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organization for an enjoyable showcase at the Queen’s Park Savannah and finally…
  • Mrs. Ingrid Ryan Ruben, our own Director of Culture and her team at the Division of Culture for staging a quality contest at NAPA, North last August.

On behalf of the Ministry, I would like to say thank you to all of you. As minister, I am looking forward to the synergies that can be created among us that impact positively on us as individuals and as an organization. This can only serve to go a long way in developing and enriching the quality of life of all our citizens. Trinbago, will indeed… live on.
Thank you and may God richly bless our nation.